There are multiple options when it comes to food and drinks that are available. Numerous products consist of many different types of nutrients. The major nutrients provide energy to the body, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins and alcohol. The smaller nutrients provide vitamins and minerals. But they are all important to us. The nutrients travel through the oesophagus into the stomach, where they are broken down into smaller pieces and absorbed into the blood.
Blood sugar, how does it work?
After eating a product that contains carbohydrates, your body breaks down this building block into glucose. Glucose (a form of sugar) is a substance that will be absorbed into the blood and transported to places in the body where it can be used as fuel. The hormone insulin is needed to transport and absorb glucose. So, insulin is the key needed for the body to use glucose as fuel. It can cause a decrease in the amount of glucose in the blood. If everything goes well, your body will ensure (via a smart system) that the amount of glucose in the blood remains at the right level, but this system doesn’t always work.
When am I ‘normal’?
The amount of glucose or sugar in the blood is expressed in millimoles per litre (a term that you should forget). To see whether your body can regulate the amount of blood sugar, your value is measured on an empty stomach or at least 2 hours after a meal. Healthy people have a fasting blood sugar of <6.1 mmol/l or a blood sugar of <7.8 mmol/l if measured at least 2 hours after a meal. You are diagnosed with diabetes if your blood sugar on an empty stomach is 7.0 mmol/l or higher, or if the blood sugar is 11.1 mmol/l or higher at least 2 hours after a meal.
Why is my blood sugar high?
Due to various circumstances (such as hereditary predisposition, overweight and behaviour) your body can become less sensitive to insulin, the hormone that – as mentioned before – is necessary for controlling your blood sugar level. The amount of sugar in your blood is then too high. Your body has to work very hard to make enough insulin and it becomes exhausted as a result. If this continues for a longer period of time, blood vessels are damaged and complications such as cardiovascular disease lie ahead.
What do I notice about myself?
Type 1 diabetes usually presents immediate symptoms leading to a prompt diagnosis. In contrast, type 2 diabetes is a condition that people sometimes live with for years before it is discovered, type 2 diabetes causes less immediate and less severe symptoms. Complaints that you may notice are thirst, a dry mouth, fatigue, frequent urination and blurred vision. If your blood sugar is elevated for a longer period of time, other complaints also arise, such as poorly healing wounds, recurring infections and pain in the legs when walking. By treating diabetes, the symptoms usually disappear quickly. So what’s stopping you? Join Clear now!
Controlling my blood sugar with food
Although everyone reacts differently to food, there are some guidelines that are good for everyone (including people without diabetes). I’ll tell you the 5 most important:
1. Limit sugar intake
Eating sugar causes- as mentioned before- fluctuations in blood sugar levels and that’s exactly what you want to prevent. Therefore, limit the amount of sugar you consume and be aware of the fact that many products – which you don’t always expect – contain sugar. Do you want to know how you can manage this by yourself? The next blog will be about easy label reading.
2. Eat enough fruit and vegetables and vary
Fruits and vegetables contain many different vitamins and are associated with a lower risk of diabetes (and many other chronic conditions). The recommendation is to consume at least 200 grams of vegetables and 200 grams of fruit per day. For many people it is difficult to comply with this guideline. What helps is to eat some fruits and vegetables during the day and be aware that fruit does not work the same for everyone. We wrote more about this in an earlier blog. What you can do is start the day with a tasty smoothie, cover your bread with vegetables or eat a salad for lunch. Small effort, big success!
3. Use whole-grain products as much as possible
Why? Because whole grain products contain a lot of fibre. Fibre ensures that your blood sugar rises less quickly and less excessively. In addition, whole grain products lower the risk of various chronic diseases (just like vegetables and fruit do). So replace the white rice for brown rice, buy whole-wheat crackers and if you eat bread, take the whole-wheat version as often as possible. That might take some time getting used to, but after a while you won’t even notice the difference (and it will give you a lot of health benefits).
4. Eat legumes every week
Legumes help to keep your blood vessels healthy and also contain a lot of fibre, proteins and healthy substances for our intestines. Although legumes are not a standard part of the weekly menu for many people, it is easy to add. You can enrich your dinner with it, make cocktail nuts or even hide it in your chocolate cake (highly recommended!).
5. Make sure you take enough good fats
Many people are afraid of fat and want to avoid it as much as possible. That is not quite right, your body needs different kinds of nutrients to function properly and fat is also one of those necessary nutrients. To keep it easy, it is best to eat products that have been processed as little as possible. Limit pizza, cookies and fast food and feed yourself with olive oil, unsalted nuts, oily fish and avocado. These products end up on your plate from nature (almost). Keep in mind that these products are high in calories, despite the health benefits. So make sure you get enough of them, but don’t overdo it.